Dakar 2017 – De Villiers, Sainz upbeat on Dakar chances

With Dakar 2017 set to start in less than 24 hours, Toyota duo Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giniel de Villiers believe that their SA-built Gazoo Racing Red Bull Hilux bakkies will be able to take on the mighty Peugeot buggies in this year’s race.

The pair finished second and third behind Peugeot’s Peterhansel last year and Mini refugee Al-Attiyah, a double-former Dakar winner who ended second in 2016, is confident that he and his South African teammate can be competitive in the 2017 race.

“I made the change for the Toyota and we won six cross-country races in 2016,” Qatari Al-Attiyah explained. “The Toyota has improved – the regulations were different last year and the Mini was different too. “Now everything is coming together and I’m sure it will be a fair competition.”

“I’m sure we’ll be able to challenge in a better way this year,” former winner and de Villiers; the man who ended third for Toyota following a titanic duel with Al-Attiyah’s Mini last year added. “The car is definitely better than last year and with the Peugeot losing 1mm of its restrictor and us gaining a bigger restrictor, I think it will be a lot closer, a lot more fair. “We should have had that rule already last year!

“So let’s see – hopefully it can be much closer this year and we can have a good fight to make it much more interesting for everybody. “Last year the Peugeots were too quick in pure speed and it wasn’t really a competition, but for sure I think we’re in with a good chance this time.”

“The team is strong and for sure that will help – it’s good for Toyota to have Al-Attiyah and Nani Roma driving with us – especially if you consider Nasser’s performance against Sainz in Morocco, it’s certainly very encouraging. “Nasser has also won all the races this year – at the moment he’s probably the guy to beat in cross-country and to have him in our team is very good.”

“All that said, the Peugeot is still three-to-four kilos lighter than the Toyota, so the lighter car with the same power will accelerate quicker and we lose more power at altitude and so much of this race happens at 3000 metres or more above sea level. “Last year we were killed at altitude by Peugeot, but there are changes to the balance of performance to help us, so let’s see how it goes.” will cover Dakar live on a daily basis in conjunction with Imperial Toyota – log in through the day to keep up to date with the day’s complete report posted at the close of play every evening 2-14 January 2017.